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Air Force report details racial, gender disparities, sexual harassment

By
Jonna Lorenz
A second independent Air Force disparity review report, released Thursday, identified racial, ethnic and gender disparities in the Air Force and Space Force. File Photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton/U.S. Air Force
A second independent Air Force disparity review report, released Thursday, identified racial, ethnic and gender disparities in the Air Force and Space Force. File Photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton/U.S. Air Force

Sept. 10 (UPI) -- A third of female service members and a quarter of civilians in the Air Force reported having experienced sexual harassment during their careers in the branch, according to a report from the Air Force Inspector General's Office.

The second independent disparity review report, released Thursday, identified racial, ethnic and gender disparities in the Air Force and Space Force and found that minorities and women are underrepresented in leadership positions.

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"The ultimate measure of success is meaningful results," Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said in a statement.

"The IG's update provides valuable insight into what we've accomplished and what remains to be done. A key part of our 'One Team, One Fight' mantra is about ensuring our Airmen and Guardians and the Department of the Air Force civilians serve in an inclusive environment where they can achieve their full potential," Kendall said.

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The second review, which was directed in February, is an extension of the first disparity review, which was released in December, identifying 16 disparities for Black service members.

It expanded the focus on gender and ethnicity to include Hispanic, Latino, Asian, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander service members.

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The review included military justice data dating back to 2012 along with 100,000 responses to anonymous surveys distributed in April, 17,000 pages of feedback and 122 group discussions with officer, enlisted and civilian airmen and guardsmen.

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About half of all female survey respondents and 70% of female officers said maintaining work/life balance and taking care of family commitments adversely affected women in the branch more than their male counterparts. Less than 30% of male respondents shared that view.

Among the concerns expressed were sexism and sexual harassment, negative stigma associated with pregnancy and maternity leave -- and a lack of trust in the chain of command and fear of reprisal.

Service members of all racial and ethnic backgrounds expressed concern that discriminatory or racist remarks aren't appropriately addressed.

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The review also found that minority service members were more likely to be disciplined and administratively discharged than their White counterparts.

"These disparities and gaps in trust affect our operational readiness -- we don't have time or talent to lose," Air Force Undersecretary Gina Ortiz Jones said in a statement.

"We will actively work to rebuild that trust and ensure Department of Air Force members, the 'One Team' our nation needs to protect our interest in air and space, can serve to their full potential."

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